I've been doing some research on Dr. John McDougall and his views on diet. Based on his writings, my understanding is that Dr. McDougall thinks we should eat a fat free diet and that it is best to leave any kind of fat- including unrefined coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados- alone. Though this has never resonated with me, I have yet to be able to fully leave the subject alone. I believe I should always be questioning my beliefs because this has led me to some wonderful discoveries. My feeling is that the truth will win out.
I read one of Dr. McDougall's newsletters in which he addresses the oils and fats issues and have been less than impressed. He lost me at the opening line: "The fat you eat is the fat you wear... there is nothing attractive about wearing olive, flaxseed, or corn fat." Well, what's attractive is a matter of cultural debate and from a scientific perspective "hotness" should be completely beside the point when it comes to nutrition. He then says that animals can't create the fats they need and must get them from plants, which begs the question of what's wrong with eating a handful of raw nuts. But Dr. McDougall never answers that question and instead launches into a chart listing common fats and describing how essential fatty acid deficiency is unknown. He has yet to prove out whether this is the case for people who follow the type of diet he is advocating though, so it could be that the rest of the world isn't fatty acid deficient because they are eating olive oil and nuts while people avoid all fats and oils are actually deficient.
Next is a discussion on how free oils are at best medications with side effects and at worse toxins in which all oils- refined and unrefined- are lumped together. Dr. McDougall claims that oils and fats may have some properties for treating certain auto-immune conditions, but claims that the downsides of using oils are significant as well. I note that unrefined coconut oil is conspicuously absent. Recent research on unrefined coconut oil has found that it seems to boost the metabolism and kills viruses, fungi, bacteria, and even cancer. Well, I have to say that I would rather weigh a couple of extra pounds and not suffer from viruses, bacteria, fungal infections and cancer. Hands down, I'll take the extra weight.
The last paragraph states that every week Dr. McDougall hears from someone who says that she is still 40 lbs overweight despite eating completely vegan and that the oily sheen on her face tells him that she has not given up adding olive oil to her spaghetti sauce. However, there are lots of people who small amounts of oil and nuts who have thin or even muscular bodies. Green Smoothie Girl Robyn Openshaw has freely disclosed that she is in her forties and weighs 135 lbs and is 5'8"- and that's after four kids! Jinjee and Storm Talifero of the Garden Diet program are 44 and 62 and in great shape! Jinjee has had four babies and Storm lifts weights every day. I myself have been eating a mostly raw whole foods diet (with some unrefined oils and nuts) for about two years and I'm 5'5" and weigh 125 lbs. It's not the oils, it's the processed foods that make the difference.
There is certainly some truth in Dr. McDougall's views. We shouldn't overdo it on fats. However, small amounts of unrefined fats and oils can be good for us. I have simply not found Dr. McDougall's arguments to be completely logical and well-thought out. (I guess they don't teach rhetoric in medical school.) So, I'm not going to worry about putting a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the chickpeas and broccoli over rice tonight.